Today’s blog post is very long. That’s because I want to give you a fair overview of all the possible uses for the humble bag or box of baking soda that you may have stored in one or more cabinets in your home. I admit that there are many applications listed here that I have not tried and that I usually use essential oils. But there are very few applications that I have not heard about from others or read in natural solutions books, articles, and blogs. That said, let’s dig in!
What is baking soda and how does it work?
This simple chemical compound, also known as sodium bicarbonate or bicarbonate of soda (NaHCO3), is found in crystalline form in nature but is ground to a fine powder for most household uses. Baking soda is an alkaline compound that, when combined with an acid, will produce carbon dioxide gas. Baking soda will also produce gas upon decomposition caused by heat. No acid is necessary for this reaction to take place, simply exposure to temperatures above 80 degrees Celsius (176 degrees Fahrenheit).
Because baking soda can decompose over time, you may want to test the potency of your baking soda. To test baking soda, simply add a pinch of baking soda to a small amount of vinegar in a bowl. If it foams vigorously, the baking soda is still active. This reaction can create a great deal of foam so be sure to do this over a sink.
How is baking soda different from baking powder and washing soda?
While baking soda is strictly an alkaline compound, baking powder is sodium bicarbonate already combined with an acid. The acid compound in baking powder is in the form of a salt, which means it will not react with the base until a liquid is added. Baking soda is good to use in recipes which include other acidic ingredients. If a recipe does not contain enough acids, using baking powder is appropriate as it contains its own acid. Using baking soda in alkaline recipes may also yield a bitter taste as there is not enough acid to neutralize the alkaline sodium bicarbonate. If a baking soda is double-acting, that means that it rises twice, once when a liquid is added and again when it is exposed to heat.
Washing soda is a chemical compound that can be used to remove stubborn stains from laundry and is an essential component in most homemade laundry detergent for powder, liquid, or single pod formulas. It is often used in commercial detergent mixtures as well to treat hard water. The chemical formula for washing soda is Na2CO3 or sodium carbonate. The sodium carbonate “softens” water helping other cleaning ingredients lift soil from the fabrics and suspend the soil in the wash water. Washing soda binds to the minerals that make water hard and allows the detergent to be absorbed into fibers properly to clean clothes.
IN THE KITCHEN/LAUNDRY ROOM
Baking (of course!)
Baking soda is one of the most widely used leaveners in baked goods. Baking soda is used to leaven many “quick breads” like pancakes, muffins, cakes, and fried foods. These batters are not strong enough to hold shape for the length of time that it takes for yeast to create gas. Because baking soda produces gas quickly, it is not necessary to let the batter rise for long periods as with yeast bread. When the batter is exposed to heat, it becomes rigid and the expansion caused by the gas bubbles is set in place.
If a batter containing baking soda is left to sit at room temperature, it will begin to rise slowly and become slightly fluffy as the acids and bases react in the batter. The second, more dramatic rise occurs in the oven when the batter is exposed to heat. Heat accelerates the acid-base reaction as well as causes decomposition of the baking soda, both of which produce the leaving gas. The leavening action of baking soda is often so rapid that it can be observed in real time.
Baking soda is a favored cleaner because of its granular texture, which aids scrubbing and its alkaline pH which can dissolve some deposits and build-up. To use baking soda in your kitchen, make a paste by mixing baking soda with a small amount of water. *I add Lemon essential oil rather than water, but you can try both ways and see which you prefer. Apply the paste to the desired surface with a sponge or cloth and scrub thoroughly.
Here are a few things found in the kitchen you can clean with baking soda:
- Oven – Add a teaspoon of baking soda to a damp sponge or rag. This combination will wipe away food and grease easily.
- Stained and greasy dishes – Add it to your regular dish washing cycle; this will help to eliminate unwanted grease and grime that builds up on your dishes.
- Coffee and tea pots – To remove coffee stains and funky tastes from your coffee or tea pot (and mugs/cups), make this quick mixture: one-fourth cup of baking soda with one quart of warm water. Rub the mixture on and in your pots; if you are battling tough stains, let it sit for a few hours first and then rinse.
- Stained marble
- Grease stains
- Kitchen tiles
- Clogged drains – Mix baking soda and vinegar to create your own drain cleaner. A vinegar and baking soda mixture is a much safer option than the harmful chemicals that are typically used to clear drains. Let the combination bubble for 15 minutes, then rinse with hot water.
- Tarnished silver – Create a paste that is three parts baking soda and one part water. Rub the paste onto your silverware and let it sit in a large tray or bowl. After 15 to 20 minutes, rinse the silverware.
DIY laundry whitener (though washing soda is much more powerful, so experiment)
Baking soda is an inexpensive way to whiten and clean your laundry.
Add half a cup of baking soda to your regular amount of laundry detergent. It also helps soften the water, which means you may need less detergent than usual.
Clean fruits and vegetables
Many people worry about pesticides on foods. Pesticides are used to prevent crops from damage by insects, germs, rodents and weeds. Peeling fruit is the best way to remove pesticides. However, it also means you don’t get the important nutrients, such as fiber, vitamins and minerals, found in the skins of many fruits. Interestingly, recent research has found that soaking fruits and veggies in a baking soda wash is the most effective way to remove pesticides without peeling them. Soaking fruit in a solution of baking soda and water for 12–15 minutes can remove most of the pesticides unless they have penetrated the skin.
Baking soda is a handy alternative to commercial silver polishes.
For this you will need:
- An aluminum baking pan or a baking dish lined with aluminum foil
- 1 cup of boiling water
- 1 tablespoon of baking soda
- 1/2 cup of white vinegar
Add the baking soda to the aluminum baking pan and slowly pour in the vinegar. Next, pour in the boiling water and then place the silver in the baking pan. Almost immediately, the tarnish should begin to disappear, and you can remove most silverware from the pan within thirty seconds. However, heavily tarnished silverware may need to sit in the mixture for up to a minute. In this mixture, silver undergoes a chemical reaction with the aluminum pan and baking soda. It transfers the tarnish from the silverware onto the aluminum pan or may create pale, yellow residue at the bottom of the pan.
Pots and pans
Just let them soak in hot water and baking soda for 15 to 20 minutes: the grease, grim or food will come right off!
You can save a scorched pot easily with baking soda and water. Sprinkle a generous amount of baking soda over the bottom of the pot and add enough water to cover the burnt areas. Bring the mixture to a boil and empty the pan as usual. If stubborn stains remain, grab a scourer, add a small amount of washing liquid and gently remove the remaining burnt bits.
Extinguish oil and grease fires
Interestingly, some fire extinguishers contain baking soda. They are known as dry chemical fire extinguishers and are used to extinguish oil, grease and electrical fires. Baking soda reacts with the heat to produce carbon dioxide, which smothers and extinguishes the fire. This means that baking soda can be used to extinguish small oil and grease fires. However, don’t expect baking soda to extinguish larger house fires. Larger fires draw in more oxygen and can counter the effects of baking soda.
Baking soda is well known for its ability to absorb odors. For this reason, baking soda is often placed in refrigerators, freezers, and other enclosed spaces to absorb erroneous odors. Most bad smells come from either strong acids (think sour milk) or bases (like spoiled fish). When you add baking soda and change the pH balance, the odors in your fridge or your carpet come into a neutral state. Baking soda is an excellent and safe alternative to commercial air fresheners. It interacts with odor particles and neutralizes them, rather than masking them.
Put an open box of baking soda in your fridge. Sprinkle it over the layers of garbage in your trash can or toss it into the bottom of your dishwasher.
To create a baking soda air freshener, you will need:
- A small jar
- 1/3 cup baking soda
- 10–15 drops of your favorite essential oils
- A piece of cloth or paper
- String or ribbon
Add the baking soda and essential oils to the jar. Cover it with the cloth or paper, and then secure it in place with the string. When the scent starts to fade, give the jar a shake.
AROUND THE HOME
Gentle laundry add
Baking soda can be used as a natural cleanser, detergent booster, and even a fabric softener. It’s the perfect way to clean baby clothes — just add one cup to your load of laundry.
DIY carpet stain remover
When baking soda and vinegar are mixed, they create a compound called carbonic acid, which is a common ingredient in cleaning products. This reaction creates a lot of fizzing, which may help break down tough stains.
Dry – Sprinkle baking soda over the stained area. Let it sit for 15 to 20 minutes, and then vacuum. This works best with a fresh stain.
Wet – Sprinkle baking soda over the stained area. Next, fill an empty spray bottle with a 1:1 mixture of vinegar and water and spray over the stained area (you may want to test the colorfastness of your carpet before applying vinegar). Wait up to an hour or until the surface becomes dry. Scrub the baking soda loose with a brush and vacuum the residue. The stain should now be completely removed. If there is some baking soda residue left on the carpet, wipe it up with a damp towel.
DIY bathroom cleaner
Bathrooms can be difficult to clean. They have a variety of surfaces that are frequently used and thus need to be cleaned often. While a variety of commercial bathroom cleaners are available, many people prefer a more natural and cost-effective cleaning option. Baking soda comes in handy because it whitens and disinfects many bathroom surfaces.
Here are a few surfaces you can clean with baking soda. Make a paste using baking soda and a bit of water (or Lemon essential oil). Using a sponge or a cloth, rub the mixture thoroughly onto the surface you want to clean. Wipe down the surface 15–20 minutes later with a damp cloth.:
- Bathroom tiles
- Bathroom sinks
Shower curtain cleaner
Get rid of those stains that show up on shower curtains by rubbing baking soda onto them. Add a little water and the grime will be gone shortly.
Brush and comb cleaner
Create a paste by combining two teaspoons of baking soda with one cup of water. Coat your brushes and combs with this paste and then rinse thoroughly.
Pour two tablespoons of baking soda into two cheesecloths or thin pieces of fabric. Secure the cloths with a rubber band or string and place one in each shoe. Remove the baking soda bags when you want to wear your shoes.
To freshen your closet, place a box or cup of baking soda inside. Periodically change it to keep your closet smelling fresh and clean.
Keep your mouth healthy
Baking soda toothpaste is a great way to improve dental health. It is known to increase plaque removal — that is why it’s commonly used in both conventional and natural toothpaste.
Caution: Straight baking soda has abrasive qualities, and over time it may wear away enamel. Instead, to keep fresh breath, you can add it to your toothpaste, make your own homemade toothpaste, or just dip your toothbrush in baking soda a few times a week.
Mouthwash is a great addition to a good oral hygiene routine. It reaches corners of your mouth and crevices of your teeth, gums and tongue that may be missed during brushing. Many use baking soda as a replacement for mouthwash. It can help freshen your breath and provides antibacterial and antimicrobial properties. Simply add half a teaspoon of baking soda to half a glass of warm water, mix thoroughly, and then swish as usual.
Soothe canker sores
Canker sores are small, painful ulcers that can form inside your mouth. Unlike cold sores, canker sores do not form on the lips and aren’t contagious. Research has found that baking soda mouthwash is great for soothing pain caused by canker sores:
You can make baking soda mouthwash using the recipe above. Rinse your mouth with this mixture once a day until the canker sore heals.
Whiten your teeth
Baking soda is a popular home remedy for whitening teeth. Many studies have found that toothpaste containing baking soda is better for whitening teeth and removing plaque than toothpaste without baking soda:
This is likely because baking soda has mild abrasive properties that let it break the bonds of molecules that stain the teeth. It also has antibacterial and antimicrobial properties that can help fight harmful bacteria.
Caution: Straight baking soda can be abrasive and can damage tooth enamel. Instead, create your own paste with a teaspoon of baking soda and water. Once a week, rub the paste onto your teeth, let it sit for five minutes, and then rinse your mouth. To be safe, use with toothpaste.
Simply add half a teaspoon to two cups of water. An hour after eating, drink this mixture to gain some relief. Excessive gastric acid is not the cause of every kind of indigestion, so if your symptoms don’t improve after 2 weeks, call your doctor.
Caution: consuming too much baking soda can cause an INCREASE in acid production.
Heartburn is also known as acid reflux. It is a painful, burning sensation that rises in the upper region of your stomach and can spread up into your throat. Heartburn is caused by acid refluxing out of the stomach and up your esophagus, the tube that connects your stomach to your mouth. A few common causes of reflux are overeating, stress and eating greasy or spicy foods. Ingesting baking soda can help by neutralizing stomach acid. Dissolve a teaspoon of baking soda in a glass of cold water and drink the mixture slowly.
May reduce ulcer pain
Because baking soda neutralizes stomach acid, it can helpful for ulcers. Speak with your doctor first, but taking it in water internally may help relieve ulcer symptoms.
Human sweat is odorless. Sweat only gains an odor after it is broken down by bacteria in your armpits. These bacteria convert your sweat into acidic waste products that give sweat its odor. Baking soda can eliminate the smell of sweat by making the odors less acidic. Try patting baking soda onto your armpits or on the soles of your feet. Another method is mixing a teaspoon of baking soda with enough water to create a milky paste. Rub the paste under your underarms or even on your feet.
May improve exercise performance
Baking soda is a popular supplement among athletes. Some studies show that baking soda can help you perform at your peak for longer, especially during anaerobic exercises like high-intensity training and sprinting (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4475610 ). During high-intensity exercise, your muscle cells start producing lactic acid, which is responsible for the burning feeling you get during exercise. Lactic acid also lowers the pH inside your cells, which may cause your muscles to tire.
Baking soda has a high pH, which may help delay fatigue, allowing you to exercise at your peak for longer. For example, one study found that people who took baking soda exercised for an average of 4.5 minutes longer than people who didn’t take baking soda (https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0114729 ).
A scientific article published in 2013, titled “Practical considerations for bicarbonate loading and sports performance,” points out that studies to date have demonstrated that taking sodium bicarbonate before exercise (also known as bicarbonate loading) may have “a moderate positive effect” on athletic performance that includes one to seven minutes of sustained strenuous exercise. In addition, sodium bicarbonate may also be helpful for prolonged physical activity involving intermittent or sustained periods of high-intensity training. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23765347 )
So is there a benefit to using baking soda as a training aid? According to the author of the above article, Dr. Louise Mary Burke, “It could be useful to try and support the training session to allow the athlete to train harder, but also to reduce some of the negative side effects of having a high acidity in the muscle so you may get less damage to the muscle and a better training outcome in the long-term.” (https://www.karger.com/Article/Abstract/345814 )
Another small clinical study of eight healthy male subjects found consuming baking soda before intermittent cycling improved their sprint performance. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12900682 )
Caution: When soda loading, consuming too much or too often can make you sick.
Relieve itchy skin and sunburn
While it isn’t good for everyday use on your skin (see Precautions section below), baking soda can soothe the redness, itching, and stinging that are signs of a mild reaction to an insect bite. Many over-the-counter creams contain baking soda. This also works for poison ivy, rashes, and sunburn.
A baking soda bath or paste is often recommended to soothe itchy skin. Baths are especially effective at soothing itches from bug bites and bee stings, as well as from sunburns. Baths may be more effective when other ingredients like cornstarch and oatmeal are included.
- To make a baking soda bath, add 1–2 cups of baking soda to a lukewarm bath. Make sure the affected area is soaked thoroughly.
- For topical applications, mix a teaspoon with some water to create a baking soda paste and apply a thick layer to the areas of concern. Leave it on for several minutes and then rinse. You can do this a few times per day as needed.
- You can also mix baking soda into your favorite body lotion to calm a sunburn.
DIY antibacterial and antifungal support
Baking soda has been shown to kill off bacteria including Streptococcus mutans, which is a type of bacteria associated with tooth decay. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12017929 ) It is also effective against various fungal groups including yeasts, dermatophytes and molds that cause skin and nail infections in humans. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22991095 )
DIY foot soother and nail treatment
Create your own foot bath with a tablespoon of baking soda and warm water. This baking soda bath will remove bacteria and odors and can help to prevent toenail fungus.
May help to soften rough skin and calluses
Calluses are hard, rough patches of skin that are caused by longtime friction or pressure. Activities that typically cause calluses are frequent walking, gardening or sports. While calluses aren’t necessarily serious, they can cause pain and discomfort when pressure is applied. Interestingly, studies have found that soaking calluses in a baking soda bath may help soften them, remove any scales, and reduce discomfort.
DIY hand treatment
To scrub away dirt and odors, mix baking soda with warm water and rub it on your hands. This natural hand cleanser will leave your hands clean and soft.
Cleanse your hair
Add a teaspoon to your shampoo, rub it into your hair, and rinse as usual. Baking soda shampoo is extremely clarifying and can remove dirt and oil as well as residue that is left over from hair products. Use it occasionally.
Splinters will come out naturally after a few days of soaking in baking soda (use a mix that includes a tablespoon of baking soda and warm water). Soak the affected area twice a day in the baking soda water.
May alleviate urinary tract infection (UTI)
According to the CDC, urinary tract infections (UTIs) are one of the most common infections and as Mayo Clinic points out, women have a higher risk of developing a UTI than men.
A scientific study published in 2017 looked at the effects of baking soda on female patients with lower urinary tract symptoms who also had acidic urine pH levels lower than six. After four weeks of taking it orally, the researchers found the urine of the subjects was alkalinized and there was a “a significant level of positive effects on symptoms and symptom scores.”
Overall, baking soda appears to be an easy, inexpensive way to improve UTI symptoms accompanied by acidic urine with little to no unwanted side effects. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28975365 )
May help chemotherapy work and soothe side effects
While no scientific studies have found that baking soda cures cancer, research does show that it can help some cancer treatments work better. Some chemotherapy drugs need alkaline conditions. Others become more toxic in an acid environment. Baking soda may make the environment for tumors less acidic, which benefits chemotherapy treatments:
This is why some doctors suggest using some form of sodium bicarbonate for best treatment results. Your oncologist can tell you if your drugs will get a boost from baking soda. Note: Current evidence is limited to preliminary indications from animal and cell studies, so more human-based research is needed.
If you or someone you know has gone through chemotherapy, then you probably already know how bad the side effects of this cancer treatment can be. For example, undesirable changes to the mouth and throat can occur in some patients. If this happens to you, rinse your mouth three times daily with a mixture of 1 cup warm water, 1/4 teaspoon baking soda, and 1/8 teaspoon salt, followed by a rinse with plain warm water.
May improve kidney function
People with chronic kidney disease (CKD) slowly lose function of their kidneys. The kidneys are incredibly important because they help remove excess waste and water from the blood. At the same time, they help balance important minerals like potassium, sodium and calcium.
Research shows that baking soda may help slow the progression of CKD:
In a study including 134 adults with CKD, it was found that those taking sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) supplements were 36% less likely to rapidly develop kidney failure than people who did not take the supplements (see above). Thus, a daily dose of sodium bicarbonate can help people whose kidneys can no longer remove enough acid from their blood.
Homemade weed killer
Weeds are pesky plants that can grow in the cracks of your walkways and driveways. They often have deep roots, making them hard to kill without using a chemical weed killer. You can use baking soda as a cheaper and safer alternative because baking soda is high in sodium, which creates a harsh environment for weeds. Sprinkle a few handfuls of baking soda over weeds that are growing in the cracks of your sidewalk, driveways and other weed-infested areas.
AVOID using baking soda to kill weeds in your flowerbeds and gardens, as it may kill your other plants as well.
Wash your car
Create a paste with one-fourth cup of baking soda with one cup of warm water. With a sponge or rag, rub the paste onto your car (tires, lights, seats, windows) and then rinse. Or dilute in a gallon of water to remove dirt and grime off your paint as well — just make sure to dissolve thoroughly as baking soda is abrasive in its powdered state.
Healthy, clear pool water
Baking soda maintains the pH of pool water and works with disinfectants to keep the water clear without causing eye redness to swimmers. Amount and frequency of baking soda adds depend on what is needed to maintain alkalinity of 80-100 ppm. Check pH and alkalinity weekly during the swimming season. If adding disinfectants, follow manufacturer instructions.
Kitty litter deodorizer
To deodorize your cat box naturally, cover the bottom of the box with baking soda first, and then fill it in with kitty litter as usual. After cleaning out the litter, give the box some extra deodorization by sprinkling baking soda on top.
RECOMMENDED DOSAGES FOR BAKING SODA
Cold and Flu Relief
Baking soda uses historically include natural treatment of the common cold and flu as well. Recommended dosages from the Arm and Hammer Company for colds and influenza date back to 1925. The company broke the doses up into a three-day period:
Day 1: The first day consists of six doses of a half-teaspoon of baking soda in a glass of cool water, at about two-hour intervals.
Day 2: On the second day, the company advises that the individual take four doses of a half-teaspoon in a glass of cool water, at the same intervals.
Day 3: The third day includes two doses of a half-teaspoon in a glass of cool water, morning and evening, and thereafter a half-teaspoon of baking soda in a glass of cool water each morning until the cold or flu symptoms are cured.
To calm an episode of indigestion, a common dosage recommendation is adding a fourth of a teaspoon of baking soda to a glass of water. This can help to reduce stomach acid, but it’s important to remember that not all indigestion is caused by an overproduction of acid so if you still have symptoms two weeks later, speak to your doctor.
PRECAUTIONS, AVOIDS, and POTENTIAL SIDE EFFECTS
When taking it internally
- Taking a baking soda and water mixture in which the baking soda is not fully dissolved
- Taking more than 3.5 teaspoons per day
- Taking more than 1.5 teaspoon a day if you are over 60 years old
- Taking the maximum dosage for longer than two weeks
- Drinking baking soda solution too quickly (sip it slowly)
- Taking it when you are overly full (to avoid gastric rupture)
When also using medications (see more under General Precautions)
Don’t take baking soda within 2 hours of other medications. When the baking soda lowers stomach acid, it can slow the rate at which your body absorbs some medicines and change the way others work.
When helping children
Don’t give it to a child under 6 unless your pediatrician tells you to.
When soothing your skin and hair/scalp
Your body’s largest organ is slightly acidic. This helps it hang on to moisture and keeps harmful bacteria out of your body. But if you have sensitive skin, you are likely to find alkaline substances irritating. Applications that require caution include:
Exfoliating your face – Remove dry skin from your face by creating your own baking soda exfoliant. Combine one teaspoon with half a cup of water and rub it on your face in a circular motion, then rinse. Using baking soda for face exfoliation is an inexpensive way to refine skin, just don’t use it too frequently because you don’t want it to upset the pH balance of your skin.
Styling your hair – Some people skip shampoo and use a mixture of baking soda and apple cider vinegar on their hair. Over time this will make a bad hair day worse. Like your scalp, your hair is naturally acidic. Baking soda might shine your locks up at first, but over time it will cause frizz, tangles, and breaks.
Baking soda uses for skin or body are generally considered safe and nontoxic. Consuming it orally is also safe, but don’t exceed the recommended dose. Too much baking soda can upset the body’s acid-base balance leading to nausea, vomiting and/or abdominal pain. Rare cases of baking soda overdose lead to seizures, coma and death.
It is high in sodium — 1,259 milligrams in one teaspoon — so high doses are not safe. High doses can raise blood pressure and cause swelling. In severe cases, it can overload circulation and lead to heart failure. People who consume too much baking soda have reportedly developed blood chemistry imbalances and heart malfunction (ineffective pumping).
Another reason not to overdo your consumption is that it can increase potassium excretion which could lead to a potassium deficiency.
If you have edema, liver disease, kidney disease or high blood pressure, you should AVOID taking it internally. You should also refrain from consuming it if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
If you are on prescription drugs, consult your doctor before consuming it, and make sure you speak to your doctor about drinking baking soda if you are on a sodium-restricted diet.
Speak with your doctor before using sodium bicarbonate if you are currently taking any medications or have any ongoing health concerns. Even if approved, you should not take it within two hours of taking other medications. If you are using baking soda to treat a medical condition, and it has been more than two weeks, it’s a good idea to see your doctor to be sure that you can continue self-medicating.
Some products that may interact with baking soda include aspirin and other salicylates, barbiturates, calcium supplements, corticosteroids, medications with a special coating to protect the stomach, lithium, quinidine, and diuretics.
I hope that this catalog of baking soda applications will help you to achieve increased health and wellness in your body and environment…at a very low cost. If you have favorite uses – or you find something here that is especially helpful – please let me know.
Wellness Made Simple helps you to simplify the way YOU do well…for life!